MPTP mechanisms of neurotoxicity and their implications for Parkinson's disease

Eur J Pharmacol. 1991 Dec 12;208(4):273-86. doi: 10.1016/0922-4106(91)90073-q.


Systemic administration of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) gives rise to motor deficits in humans and other primates which closely resemble those seen in patients with Parkinson's disease. These deficits are associated with a relatively selective loss of cells in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra and severe reductions in the concentrations of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin in the striatum. Similarly, in mice of various different strains the administration of MPTP also induces a marked loss of dopaminergic cells with severe depletion of biogenic amines, but higher doses of MPTP are required to produce these effects in mice than in primates. This review summarises advances made in understanding the biochemical events which underlie the remarkable neurotoxic action of MPTP. Major steps in the expression of neurotoxicity involve the conversion of MPTP to the toxic agent 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+) by type B monoamine oxidase (MAO-B) in the glia, specific uptake of MPP+ into the nigro-striatal dopaminergic neurones, the intraneuronal accumulation of MPP+, and the neurotoxic action of MPP+. This is exerted mainly through the inhibition of the enzymes of the respiratory chain (Complex I), the disturbance of Ca2+ homeostasis, and possibly by the formation of free radicals. The relevance of the MPTP model to idiopathic Parkinson's disease is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • MPTP Poisoning*
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology*